General Studies Paper 2 (Governance)
Question:- 87. What are election manifestos. Explain the significance and challenges of election manifestos in the context of Indian elections. Answer in 250 words.
Oct 10, 2022
Answer:-

INTRODUCTION:

 An election manifesto is a published document containing declaration of the ideology, intentions, views, policies and programmes of a political party. The Election Manifestos are generally drafted by the Political Parties keeping an eye on forthcoming elections and are generally published and well publicized.

 

SIGNIFICANCE:

  1. 1.It serves as a reference document or benchmark for the public at large for what a political party stands for. By comparing the ideologies, policies and programmes of the political parties, the electors can decide which party they should vote for to meet their expectations and aspirations.
  2. 2.Election manifestos highlight that aspirations and expectations of citizens are critical basis of electoral exercises. Political parties publicize their manifestos in a bid to shore up electoral support in their favor.
  3. 3.Election manifestos generate debates and discussion on issues which are considered important for elections. Hence, manifestos are important tool for mass mobilization.

 

CHALLENGES:

  1. 1.In many ways, manifestos are a formality, and their release is often no more than a photo-op in the campaign of political parties. They are frequently delayed, leaving no time for voters to go through the contents in order to make informed choices.
  2. 2.They are believed to be an intellectual exercise with no accountability as they are not legally enforceable documents and hence, the rate of compliance with election promises is erratic for all parties, and most of them are criticized for departing from their manifestos after coming to power.
  3. 3.Electoral populism manifesting as fiscally unviable/unreasonable claims. E.g. Promise of buying all produce at MSP, which is almost impossible as that would cost around 50% of the union budget.
  4. 4.Promising freebies is a regular exercise e. g., Free laptops, free scooters, free electricity, etc. Freebies enhance the influence of money in electoral process and election manifestos promising freebies harm the free and fair electoral process.
  5. 5.Manifestos are filled with generic commitments e.g. ‘good governance’; however, they are not accompanied by specific dimensions of good governance. Long term commitments are emphasized at the cost of short term specific actions.
  6. 6.Manifestos in Indian electoral process have failed to achieve prominence due to reasons like lack of existence of their awareness in voters, importance of factors like caste, religion and  ethnicity in voting behavior, lack of emphasis on factual debate in elections by political parties by emphasizing emotive issues of identity.
  7. 7.Election manifestos in India are difficult to draw for national parties due to enormous diversity in population having their own aspirations.( Regional parties are more suited to understand the regional priorities and face lesser challenges in coming up with election manifestos to address the regional aspirations.)

 

WAY FORWARD:

Election manifestos are significant in electoral process. The Election Commission and political parties should raise awareness among people regarding their utility in elections. Simultaneously, there is a need to ensure more regulation regarding election manifestos in order to promote accountability , transparency and ensure free and fair elections. This will inevitably improve public faith in the process of elections. Also, the political parties will become more conscious of making unrealistic promises, which they can’t fulfil. As a result, election manifesto will become more effective tool of elections, than just political rhetoric and grand promises before elections.